As the Nation Mourns Ft. Hood Tragedy, Urgent Mental Health Care Reforms Needed

WASHINGTON, D.C --- Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-07) today hailed the new law that included many provisions of his ‘Excellence in Mental Health Care Act.’  The Seventh District lawmaker said improving our Nation’s mental health care system is more important than ever following yesterday’s tragic shooting at Ft. Hood in Texas.

Yesterday’s tragic incident at Ft. Hood is yet another reminder that our mental health care system is not working nearly as well as it should,” said Lance, a member of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee who has been part of a congressional working group on mental health issues for more than a year.  “ I join all Americans in extending my deepest sympathies to those victims who lost their lives yesterday and their families and pledge to continue my work to improve community mental health care in our country."

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Lance and Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-06) last year introduced the ‘Excellence in Mental Health Care Act’ to  put community mental health centers on more equal footing with other health centers by improving quality standards and expanding access.  The new law will give Community Mental Health Centers the opportunity to expand their services and obtain necessary designations to provide 24-hour psychiatric care and better integrate physical checkups with mental health services.  

A second measure championed by Lance was reviewed today by the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.  The ‘The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act’ targets programming and resources on psychiatric care for patients and families most in need of services by increasing inpatient and outpatient treatment options. The bill makes judicial reforms by clarifying standards used to commit an individual to medical care and updates legal framework to help families and physicians make informed decisions.  It views those who need care through the mental health lens, not just through the criminal justice system and it fixes patient access problems in the Medicare Part D and Medicaid programs.  The measure is expected to be considered by the full House later this Spring.

Improving mental health care is a critical part of a broader effort to reduce violence and provide those who need the most care the treatment they need.  For more than a year the House Energy and Commerce Committee has examined our current system and found it is a confusing patchwork of community clinics and state hospitals chronically short of funding that leaves millions of people with mental illness without treatment, often unemployed, homeless or imprisoned.  The 'Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act’ seeks to improve the mental health care coverage in this country through accountability, results-oriented research, and meaningful prevention,” concluded Lance.